The Beijing Olympics ratings were in the toilet, it was the least-watched in NBCs history

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It feels like 2022 is the year for dumb television decision-making for some of the largest sporting events in the world. ESPN has the rights to televise the Australian Open live, and they barely did any coverage during the fortnight, hoping that people would buy ESPN+ and just watch it there. That was an obvious precursor for the 2022 Olympics, where NBC Universal holds exclusive rights. While NBC and their family of channels did air stuff live, I’ve heard some really terrible stories about people who tried to watch live coverage or even taped coverage on Peacock (the subscription streamer). Plus, the Beijing Olympics just didn’t make that much news, and when the games did make news, it was for terrible stories like a 15-year-old doper in figure skating. So who was tuning in? Very few of us.

The 2022 Winter Olympics ended as the least watched ever for NBCUniversal — but there are still a few bright spots, particularly on the streaming side of the equation, for the company amid the smaller overall figures.

The topline figure is that the Olympics averaged 11.4 million viewers across all of NBCU’s platforms in primetime. That’s down 42 percent from the 19.8 million average for the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea — in keeping with the trend both from the first few days of the games (and, in fact, closing the gap with four years ago a little bit) and the general decline of broadcast network ratings in the past four years.

NBCU’s coverage from Beijing is also down about 26 percent from the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which averaged 15.5 million primetime viewers in the company’s “Total Audience Delivery” metric (a combination of Nielsen ratings for TV and Adobe Analytics figures for digital platforms). That too is on par with the declines from last summer from the opening week of the winter games. (Each of the last three Olympics, for what it’s worth, took place in eastern Asia, presenting similar time zone differences between the host cities and the United States.)

On the upside, the streaming audience for Beijing was either the largest or second largest for any Olympics to date, depending on the measurement. Streaming on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app had an average primetime viewership of 516,000 viewers, up 8 percent from the summer and an all-time high for any Olympics in the streaming era. Streaming made up about 4.5 percent of the total primetime audience for the games.

[From THR]

The Olympics are sort of in the same boat as awards shows: desperately seeking younger demographics but incapable of making the necessary changes to actually revamp their programming to make it viewer-friendly. NBC probably won’t even try to change because I bet they did get thousands of new Peacock subscribers because of the Olympics, so hey, they’re making more money and that’s what it’s all about. Of course, the Winter Olympics always have a lower viewership too – the Summer Olympics are generally more viewer-friendly, and people will literally watch hours of Olympic tennis, volleyball, beach volleyball, soccer, etc.

While the Kamila Valieva situation was a sh-tshow from start to finish, NBC totally milked the drama for ratings – they featured multiple interviews with Johnny Weir and Tara Lapinski discussing the drama, and NBC replayed the final long-program skates and scores footage several times last week. That was the footage of everyone learning that Valieva didn’t medal.

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